Extreme cold winter weather can lead to frozen pipes in your home. When water freezes in a pipe, there is no space for the ice to expand and can create enough pressure to burst most pipes. This can cause damage to your property, costly repairs and unnecessary water waste.

Remember

From the property line to your home, you are responsible for plumbing, repairs and replacements. Call a plumber for household plumbing issues.

Check the sections below to learn how to avoid frozen or burst pipes this winter.

Home Prep for Winter

Locate your property’s main indoor water shut-off valve and make sure it works before an emergency arises.

illustration of a meter and the emergency shut off

  • Locate and shut off your property’s water supply to outdoor taps. Keep outdoor taps in the open position so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to burst.
  • Look for drafts of cold air in your home. Weather strip windows and doors, repair broken windows, and insulate areas that allow cold air to enter your home to avoid increased hydro bills.
  • Consider installing products designed to insulate water pipes (i.e. pipe sleeve).
  • Caulk and seal and openings near your water pipes.
  • Check insulation. Wet insulation freezes fast, making it worse than no insulation at all!
  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
  • Winterize sprinkler systems, pools, and spas as per manufacturer’s guidelines.

Signs of a Frozen Pipe

  1. Frost or condensation appears on the pipe.
  2. Bulging pipe.
  3. Reduced water flow from tap or no water at all. Other taps in your home may still be functional if they are connected to a pipe that is not frozen.
  4. Unusual sounds. Pay attention to unfamiliar noises that may come from your toilets, sinks, or other plumbing. Listen for bubbling, whistling, banging, or clanking. These noises may indicate damaged pipes.

It’s Frozen! Now What?

Shut off your home’s main indoor water shut-off valve, which is usually located in your basement, near your water meter.

Next Steps:

  • Open all taps.
  • If the frozen pipe can be located, gradually thaw it using one of the following methods:
    • Remove obstructions or enclosures and expose the pipe to warm open air
    • Wrap the pipe with a heating pad
    • Wrap the pipe with rags and pour hot water on it

Do Not use open flames such as a candle or blowtorch to thaw the pipe. Overheating the pipe may cause it to burst or may cause a fire.

Do Not use an electric heater or hair dryer to apply direct heat to the pipe, as leaks may cause electrocution.

What to Do if a Pipe Bursts?

  1. Shut off your home’s main indoor water shut-off valve.
  2. Open all taps.
  3. Place a bucket under the leak until the pipe can be repaired.
  4. Call a plumber.

Winter Vacation Checklist

4 Things to Do Before Travelling During the Winter

  1. Leave the heat on in your home and set the thermostat to at least 15 Degrees Celsius (59 Degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. Shut off your property’s main indoor water shut-off valve and drain your pipes.
  3. If you shut off your indoor water supply, make sure to turn off your hot water heater to prevent it from burning out.
  4. Make sure someone checks up on your home on a regular basis – especially during extreme temperatures.